Recently I finished a book called Teaching With Poverty In Mind by Eric Jensen. Like many awareness seminars, books, and documentaries, the material shed light on my ignorance to how many students are impacted by poverty. Furthering that idea, I didn’t understand fully how student’s brains and habits can be shaped by their misfortune. In this short post I would like to recount a few revelations and their impact on me as a future teacher.
In the School of Education office here at Indiana Wesleyan University, I am continually taught to find my bias’. I am a girl who prides myself with the ability to “put myself in someone else’s shoes.” I usually have a lot of grace for people and their stories. After reading the second chapter of Teaching With Poverty In Mind, I realized I have no idea what it means to be in want for the simple needs and stability like so many students in poverty today. There are deep engrained issues that create a cycle where people are stuck in poverty for generations.
Looking at these statistics was difficult for me as I realized many of the students that fall in these tragic statistics are African American. There is a strange connection between the black community and educational barriers and poverty. I grew up living in the inner city Detroit where just on the outskirts of the city, racism still brews. I would argue that this racism is caused greatly by the ignorance of what students in poverty face. For a student to develop properly, there are many needs that have to be met. Jensen mentions that each child needs human contact often. For many children in poverty, there is a single parent working for a majority of the day. They cannot help develop their child’s vocabulary or phonological awareness. There are many character qualities that must be taught because they are not engrained into the human awareness. Jensen mentions that low-income students lack many of these values such as sympathy, forgiveness, and cooperation because they do not learn them from their parents.
While growing up in the inner city, I interacted with many children who didn’t seem to understand how to apologize or listen quietly like I had been taught. As a young girl I labeled these kids as, “bad.” Unfortunately, teachers and school administrators label students like this frequently unaware of their upbringing and stressors. One of the most enlightening parts of this book for me was learning about acute and chronic stressors.
“A stressor is anything that threatens to disrupt homeostasis-for example, criticism, neglect, social exclusion, lack of enrichment, malnutrition, drug use, exposure to toxins, abuse, or trauma”( Jensen 23). So many students from low income situations develop unhealthy amount of cell growth because of stressors.
This is not the students fault. They are not lazy, rude, or “bad” kids. Many are dealign with an incredible amount of stressors.
The book brought me a lot of awareness to my own bias, which I am very grateful for. As far a practical application, well that will have to come with time and with an individual classroom. I will have to keep this book on my shelf.